Paris, France —These were the Chavin, the Nazca, the Moche, the Wari, the Chimu and finally the Incas, civilizations spanning 3,000 years of Peruvian history from 1250 B.C. to the 16th century. They had oracle priests, protective gods of the water and the sun and a mastery of myriad crafts ranging from pottery to metallurgy to irrigation and imposing architectural and building techniques. They were lords of gold and of glory. These were the people of the one who called himself Earthshaker. These were the people who built the fabulous city in the clouds: Machu Picchu.They worked hard and they played hard. They left behind a wondrous world marked by astonishing architectural and engineering feats, lustrous objects and a civilization or more precisely a succession of civilizations that remain in many ways a mystery.
Some of those mysteries are currently unfolding in Paris, fittingly at the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine (The City of Architecture and Heritage), in an exhibition entitled Machu Picchu and the Treasures of Peru. The exhibition, organized by World Heritage Exhibitions, offers a fascinating journey into the world of the Incas and their predecessors through 192 objects representing the largest collection of Peruvian gold and silver ever to travel outside of the country.
Visitors are welcomed into the spectacular show by Ai Apaec, the chief deity of the Moche culture who was worshipped as the creator and protector god of the Moche people, a warlike people who emerged in 100 B.C. They developed complex metallurgy and monumental buildings of adobe. The exhibition plunges visitors, too, into the unique eco-system of Peru one of the most diverse in the world with its 25,000 plant species, 3,000 animal species and 28 of the world’s 32 climates. From the forest of the clouds the visitor follows Ai Apaec into the three mystic worlds of the Andes to save the sun from its nocturnal captivity and this through panoramic videos produced by World Heritage Exhibitions. Before returning to the mysterious city of Machu Picchu perched above the clouds on the backbone of the Andes Mountains, the second highest mountain range in the world after the Himalayas.
Machu Picchu: one of the greatest architectural ensembles in the world with its 200 buildings including temples, palaces, squares, homes and astronomical observatories. It was on July 24th 1911, after a long, treacherous and snake-filled march through tropical Peruvian forests that the American explorer and academic Hiram Bingham discovered the Inca citadel in the clouds that is Machu Picchu. Subsequent photographs that he took of the sanctuary with his Kodak 4 x 5 camera would be published in National Geographic, myth became reality. The giant stepped fields of Machu Picchu offer testimony to the skills of the empire’s engineers. Was it a sacred retreat, a citadel — it lacks man-made defenses — it was barely large enough to be a city. It is thought that up to 1,200 residents may have lived there in the buildings of well-cut tight fitting stone, worshipping the sun god, Inti. The city’s beauty lies in its incredible integration of its architecture into its environment.
The 192 objects on display emanating from 3,000 years of the civilizations that flourished in Peru showcase a rich pantheon of deities, mythological beings and remarkable archeological finds, some of which are being shown to the public for the first time. Perfectly executed ceramics, sumptuous textiles, luxurious tableware and gloriously goldsmithed jewels and objects attest to the fascinating civilizations of ancient Peru. The show is articulated around the Machu Picchu the embodiment of the greatness of the architectural and engineering skills of the Incas.
Ninety objects and jewels taken from royal tombs, pre-Incan, underscore the greatness of these golden civilizations forming one of the richest cultural heritages in the world. Among the most sumptuous is the funerary trousseau of a Chimu emperor, dating from the imperial period, circa 1300 AD. The coastal people of the Chimu Empire adorned their clothing and household articles with intricately worked gold, wore precious textiles of unparalleled beauty and vied for power with their highland Inca rivals.
Indeed the Chimus and the Incas were the best gold and silver smiths of pre-Columbian America and in that period of the 12th and 13th centuries were turning out more sophisticated pieces than their European contemporaries. The great Inca civilization, regarded as the greatest in pre-Columbian America, would come to an end with the arrival of the Spanish conquerors led by Francisco Pizarro in the latter half of the 16th century.
Peru exhibition until September 4th
©Trish Valicenti for The Gourmet Gazette
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